Swiss Freeze $80 Million, Give FIFA Case Evidence to U.S.

December 31, 2015

  • Eugenio Figueredo was extradited to Uruguay last week

Swiss authorities have frozen roughly $80 million worth of assets and handed a batch of bank documents to their U.S. counterparts to be used in prosecutions of high-ranking officials at soccer’s global governing body, FIFA.

Swiss judicial authorities ordered the collection of a large amount of bank documents following a U.S. request for legal assistance earlier this year, the Federal Office of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

The frozen assets are from 13 bank accounts allegedly used for bribes connected with marketing rights for soccer tournaments in Latin America and the U.S., the FoJ said. The funds will remain frozen until the legal assistance proceedings have been concluded and U.S. authorities can then claim the money.

A bribery scandal at international soccer’s governing body ended the career of its president Sepp Blatter amid criminal probes by the U.S. and Switzerland over the controversial award of World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar. The sharing of documents and extradition of at least four FIFA officials from Switzerland to the U.S. shows two countries that have clashed on banking secrecy are uniting to tackle corruption in soccer.

The corruption probe now also includes banks and national sport associations involved in transactions linked to FIFA.

FIFA’s problems began with the arrest of seven soccer officials in Zurich in May, part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment of 14 people for bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Two FIFA vice presidents were arrested in Zurich on Dec. 3 as U.S. and Swiss prosecutors widened their investigations.

Former Cayman Islands banker Jeffrey Webb, Brazilian José Maria Marin and FIFA vice president Juan Angel Napout were handed over to the U.S. in July. Costa Rican soccer chief Eduardo Li was extradited on December 18. Another official arrested in the probe, Eugenio Figueredo, was extradited to Uruguay last week, the FOJ said.

Four other arrested FIFA officials continue to oppose their extradition to the U.S. and either have appeals pending at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court or other proceedings are continuing.